This post is about how to make the best of volatile fuel prices and put more money in your pocket each month.

I see it all the time. Fuel prices at the pump jump 30 cents in a day and people start their bellyaching. Facebook explodes with posts about how people are being taken advantage of, ripped off, and held hostage by a seemingly unwarranted surge in gas prices. Oil prices are very complex, and there are a lot of factors that affect the price at the pump.

Very interesting news article this morning in a UK newspaper. It helps explain a bit about how and why oil fluctuates so much. It would also help to read up on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) and how it works. I’m here today to tell you how to minimize the impact to your personal finances.

First of all we must admit that the cost per gallon is only half the reason our monthly fuel bills are so high. We don’t have any control over the price at the pump, so let’s stop grumbling about it. Let’s talk about what you can control, and that is the amount of fuel you need to purchase each month, and how we can reduce this factor.

First of all, look at what you are driving. If it is a monster truck, or something that gets very poor fuel mileage you may want to consider buying something more efficient. We don’t need 4WD 365 days a year. If you get 10 mpg in your current vehicle, you can cut your annual fuel bill in half by just driving a vehicle that gets 20 mpg. You can cut it by 66% if you can get a car that gets 30 mpg! There are many cars out there that get 40+ mpg. You would only spend 25% of what you are now spending! That is like $4 gas suddenly dropping to only $1 per gallon! Quite a significant improvement.

Secondly, let’s look at our driving habits. Do you warm up your vehicle for 15-20 min every day before you get into it? This vehicle is getting 0 mpg while sitting in your driveway. A car only needs to run for a minute or two before you start to drive it. It will warm up rather quickly once you get moving and working the engine.

Hard acceleration and braking are wasting fuel too. Try to accelerate more smoothly and coast a while before slowing down. You don’t always need to go hard on the brakes after a rapid acceleration. You not only save fuel this way, but brakes and tires too!

Lastly, consider investing in energy companies. Open an E*Trade account and take some of that money you’re saving and buy some stock in Exxon (XOM), Chevron (CVX) or some other oil or natural gas giant. Instead of complaining about the mega profits these giants reap every year, why not join in the harvest! You certainly can’t beat ’em, so why not join ’em?

It all boils down to being responsible for yourself and your finances. Make smart buying decisions, conserve where you can, and invest in profitable companies. You personally have more control over your fuel budget than the oil giants. Stop expecting the world to change just for you. Adapt to the changes around you and take care of yourself!

The following is another bit of advice I found. I did not write it, but it still holds true. I wish I could credit the author, but he/she was not cited.

If you want to reduce your stress, then be early. If you want to impress your boss, coach, or teacher, then be early. Being late shows a lack of respect for whomever you’re dealing with. I am not talking about going to a party and being the first one there. We’ll have to deal with social etiquette another time. I am talking about virtually everything else. Staying ahead of the game, ahead of the deadline, ahead of when you have to be somewhere, and ahead of when the project is due will forever endear you to those who are expecting anything on-time. Being early shows others you are motivated, organized, and disciplined. Be known as the one they can always count on to be early, prepared, and excited to be there and you will have everyone wanting you on their team. True leaders don’t keep people waiting.

If you always do what you’ve always done,

you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

This is not perfect English, but it holds true nonetheless. It is my belief that you should never get in a rut in your life. Ruts can become deep over time, and the deeper the rut you are in, the harder it is to escape. How can you avoid getting in a rut? Why don’t you try to learn something new, or take up a new hobby?

I took up photography about 20 years ago, and switched to digital in 2005. This may sound like I am in a rut, but it is not the case. Although photography has been the common theme over the past 20 years, I have been getting in deeper and learning new techniques almost nonstop since I have taken up the hobby. The first few years were fairly dull. I had a point and shoot 110 film camera and didn’t do much other than point……and…….shoot. Once I mastered (and I use the term rather loosely) that, I wanted to learn more. I bought a film SLR and experimented with manual exposure and aperture settings. I had taken classes on composition and film development. I was growing my knowledge of the hobby.

In 2005 I switched to digital and bought my first DSLR. I had previously become very familiar with composition, exposure, and aperture, but now I could expand on that. I now had the ability to adjust color temperature and ISO on a frame by frame basis. Then came post processing…. I had started to edit my photos in Photoshop! This hobby is ever changing, and there are new techniques that are developed almost daily!

This is just a personal example I wanted to share with you. There are many other hobbies that can become very interesting, and not grow stagnant over time.

New skills are important too! Whether it be work related, or a marketable skill that you can sell and use to enhance a résumé, I highly recommend branching out of your comfort zone and trying something new. Versatility and adaptability are two very important components of success, and are easy to get started on. Successful people are ahead of the curve when it comes to competing for a new position, attracting new customers, or just staying up on technology.

When you stop learning, you stop growing. Find something you like, or take a chance on something totally new. I guarantee it will keep you sharp and possibly change your life!

Note: These are not my words. I read this yesterday and I felt I must share it with you. I agree with every word in the passage.

If you want to be successful, then you have to hang out with successful people. Watch what they do and how they work at their chosen profession. Unconsciously, you will start adapting to these behaviors, habits, attitudes, and opinions of these successful individuals.

Dr. David McClelland of Harvard found after twenty-five years of research, that the choice of a negative-reference group is enough to condemn a person to failure and underachievement in life.

The good doctor simply means, if you hang out with people who are going nowhere in their lives, then you will be headed in that same direction.

If you can’t be around successful people, then read as many biographies/autobiographies as you can about successful people. Personally, I would rather be by myself than with people who are headed nowhere. What will you choose?

Words are very powerful. What one says and how one says it is often what permanently sets a first impressions in someone’s mind. People don’t often realize that they are being judged and evaluated on the words that flow from their lips.  Proper use of your vocabulary is crucial in making a good impression.

Foul language is a big no-no when you are trying to make good impression and it has no place in the workplace. It is possible you will offend someone who is within earshot of your voice, and you don’t always know who is around you. Believe me, the people will be more impressed with your communication skills than they will be with your colorful language.

Offensive and prejudicial statements are also prohibited if you want to achieve success. Considering the diverse society we live in, disparaging comments of any type could bring catastrophic results. Political correctness is of utmost importance when trying to make a good impression. You often don’t know the religious, or political views of those you are speaking to. You also do not know their sexual orientation, or racial makeup of their family tree.  Think things through before you open your mouth.

Don’t talk over your own head, and speak within your comfort level  You don’t always need to be a master of our language to be an effective communicator.  Trying to insert a big fancy new word into your conversation can be disastrous if you don’t use it correctly.

Success, as I have said before, is often dependent on the help you get from others, and if you don’t win them over with that first impression, you may not get another chance.

Why just do what you need to do to get by in life?  Doing the bare minimum never made anyone a shooting star in life.  Why not exceed expectations?

Those who consistently exceed others expectations get noticed.  Why do you want to get noticed?  To succeed!  You are reading this blog because you want to be successful, or at least know how to be successful.  Those who go the extra mile to impress others with their hard work and dedication, are the ones who are thought of when perks and promotions are offered.  Being an overachiever is a must!

You must, in some way, differentiate yourself from the crowd.  The average person is just that, average.  They fall somewhere between the overachiever and the underachiever.  Those who get noticed are found at both ends of the spectrum here.  You definitely don’t want to get noticed for being an underachiever!

One does not need to be a card-carrying Mensa member to be successful.  There are many ways to get people’s attention, and hard work, professionalism and dedication are just a few.

Exceed expectations and great things will happen!

Just Try

“That’ll never work…” “I can’t make that happen…” I hear it every day.  People conceding defeat before they even attempt to tackle the problem, or perceived problem.  More often than not, by the end of the day the problem has been tackled and solved. I think it is truly amazing what a person can achieve if they actually try.  Meeting a challenge head on and giving every effort to do the best you possibly can is what drives progress. What if Ben Franklin never tried to harness electricity? What if Thomas Edison didn’t think a light bulb would ever work?  How would we have made the progress we have over the last 200 years? Some people are persistently pessimistic.  Pessimism is very contagious. When one person makes a negative comment about their ability to meet a goal, the guy right next to him almost automatically has to one-up him.  “You think you’ve got it bad, listen to this…” Peer pressure seems to prohibit someone from even trying at all.  Many people are afraid to put forth additional effort in front of their peers for fear that they will be seen as someone who is warming up to management. I look at it as a challenge to see how well I can do.  I try to outperform and beat expectations by management.  Each of us has an ability deep down inside to adapt to any situation and achieve success.  It allows us to use critical thinking to solve any problem we may encounter. Next time a difficult situation presents itself and before you throw up your arms in defeat….just try.